There is a storied tradition of “stoner cinema”—movies, often about smoking weed, that people like to watch while smoking weed (think Dude Where’s My Car or Pineapple Express). But what about psychedelic cinema? What would be the acid equivalent of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle?
There’s no simple answer. The psychedelic experience can be so many things, and doesn’t always lend itself to a sustained activity like watching a movie. All the same, substances like LSD enhance perception in ways that can give striking new depth to the sights and sounds of film. With your body parked in a comfy spot, the movie gives your trip focus, a road to travel. If you trust the driver—the director, the writer, and actors—you can hop in that story and let it take you for a ride.
As always, DoubleBlind implores readers to carefully consider your “set” (your mindset; everything going on inside that you bring into the trip) as well as your “setting” (your physical surroundings and context) before consuming psychedelics. Those two things can make all the difference in the outcome you’ll experience. A movie you immerse yourself in will effectively become part of your setting, and you’ll want to be intentional about how its themes might interact with your inner state.
Not every movie pairs well with acid. Many contain graphic or disturbing images. Others might stir up intense emotions that you’re not looking to feel (only watch a documentary about climate change, for instance, if you really want to go there). But if you’re in the mood for a vivid, hilarious, mind-expanding, or simply trippy experience, we’ve compiled the following menu of movies in various moods.
Best Movies to Watch on Acid
These ultimate top three movies were selected with input from veteran LSD users. Each boasts a storied history, and hordes of fans who have used them as vehicles for mental and spiritual exploration. Your mileage may vary, but by watching these films, you’ll surely be partaking in the tradition of psychedelic cinema.
The Holy Mountain
With or without drugs, this 1973 surrealist classic by Chilean artist Alejandro Jodorowsky is a trip. The protagonist, who represents the “Fool” tarot card and resembles Jesus, wanders through colorful, bizarre scenarios full of religious and sacrilegious symbols, ultimately teaming up with seven powerful people (each representing a different planet) in a quest for immortality. Reddit users describe this film as “psychedelic eye candy” and a “must-see while tripping,” but also caution against watching it during one’s first trip, or while peaking, as the imagery can be intense. Recommended for experienced psychonauts, or perhaps for a thought-provoking come-down.
The Wizard of Oz (Dark Side of the Rainbow Edition)
The Wizard of Oz is colorful, musical, and rife with memories for all who grew up in its cultural orbit. But in 1995, Pink Floyd fans discovered something strange: if you mute the movie and play it while listening to the band’s album Dark Side Of the Moon, the songs, action, and plot seem to synchronize in uncanny ways. This makes the movie almost like an extended music video, perhaps more easily digestible while tripping (and the album is only 43 minutes long, so you won’t be committing to a whole film). Fans of this phenomenon call it “the Dark Side of the Rainbow,” and say you should start the album when the MGM lion roars for the third time.
Alice In Wonderland
With scenes immortalized on posters in college dorm rooms worldwide, Walt Disney’s 1951 masterpiece is guaranteed to take you on a magical adventure. Alice’s journey “down the rabbit hole” is a quintessential allegory for a psychedelic trip, and since you probably already know the story, you can easily get lost in the delight of colorful images and beautifully composed music. From talking flowers, to “unbirthday” parties, to a croquet match played with live flamingoes, this movie’s absurdities offer plenty to gawk or laugh at. As the Cheshire Cat tells it, “we’re all mad here.”
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Animated Movies to Watch on Acid
Over the past century, animation has made great strides, particularly with the development of computer tech and CGI. These days, there are countless films—both for children and adults—that make great fodder for an acid trip, with compelling stories and stunning visual aesthetics. These three movies offer both. You might enjoy watching them closely, or playing them in the background as your trip unfolds.
Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki has directed eleven feature films, any of which would make for moving, immersive experiences on acid. Some are easier to digest than others, however, and the 2008 movie Ponyo (which, like Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service was intended for a younger audience) keeps things playful and light. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s original “The Little Mermaid,” Ponyo tells the story of a goldfish who escapes from the ocean and befriends a five-year-old boy, with whom she works dazzling magic in a quest to become human herself. This movie is a scrumptious feast for the eyes and ears.
Consisting of eight vignettes set to classical music, Fantasia is a paragon of early animation, with gorgeous visuals from start to end. These include: a history of the Earth’s early days, including the rise and fall of the dinosaurs; a segment inspired by Greco-Roman myths featuring centaurs, fauns, cupids, and gods; a ballet danced comedically by animals; and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” perhaps the best known of the bunch, in which Mickey Mouse gets in over his head while practicing magic. While classical music isn’t for everyone, it does make for an interesting experiment in soundtracking your next trip.
If computer animation is more your bag, Pixar has a deep well of great options. We recommend the 2020 hit Soul, which several Reddit threads have praised for its psychedelic qualities, particularly its ability to unlock emotions. Telling the story of a pianist who navigates the afterlife after getting into an accident, the film won rave reviews from critics and has an impressive approval rating of 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It features a trippy “astral plane” sequence that took months to animate, as well as a score of original jazz and ambient music composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails.
Funny Movies to Watch on Acid
Acid can take you into the deepest recesses of yourself… and it can make you laugh like crazy. The following films give you enough to chew on while promising humor through great comedic acting and quick-witted scripts. Tripping minds are prone to finding humor even in unlikely situations—so why not watch something expressly designed for the purpose?
Let’s start with something simple, slapstick, and chockfull of zingers from start to finish. Once voted #1 on Empire magazine’s “50 Funniest Comedies Ever” poll, this 1980 classic parodies the interactions between passengers and crew aboard a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, with a bevy of recognizable gags and lines (among them: “Surely you can’t be serious”—“I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley”). It even includes basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a hilarious cameo sequence. If you’re setting a course for a light and joyous trip, it would be hard to go wrong with Airplane!.
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies
Here’s a more contemporary option for fans of scary movies. (Be forewarned that, while satirical, this is a dark comedy with significant horror elements.) Released this August and coming out on DVD in October, Bodies Bodies Bodies is an A24 film with a color palette and creative cinematography reminiscent of the HBO show Euphoria—appropriate, considering that the movie clearly intends to send up Gen Z, and achieves its mission with hilarious effects. As it twists and turns through a vacation home in a hurricane, often lit only by cell phone lights, the plot is sure to keep you gripped, and the social commentary will keep you laughing.
On the other end of the spectrum, consider a 2003 kids’ movie that has a special place in many of our hearts. Will Ferrell’s iconic character Buddy the Elf lives with a joyous naïveté that we think would pair nicely with the open-minded playfulness of acid. Buddy’s journey from the North Pole to find his dad features fun, imaginative scenery, as well as the hustle and bustle of New York. Though it’s obviously a Christmas comedy, it feels more psychedelic to watch this at any other time of year.
Netflix Movies to Watch on Acid (2022)
Let’s be honest—the movie you’re most likely to watch on acid is one you can easily find and play, and there is no streaming subscription more ubiquitous than Netflix. There are more than 3,000 movies on the service, though the classic Netflix paradox is that scrolling through them often yields a feeling of “nothing to watch.” Fear not! We’ve combed through the library to find three different options suitable for your next acid trip.
Night on Earth
Netflix hosts dozen of nature documentaries, the best-known of which is probably Our Planet (narrated by David Attenborough of Planet Earth fame). If you’re ready to try something different, Night on Earth offers the truly psychedelic experience of watching the animal kingdom come alive at night, with dramatic hunts and battles filmed using state-of-the-art, low-light cameras (seriously—we didn’t know technology had come this far!). The show is surprisingly colorful, with bioluminescent frogs and scorpions in the mix, but it all takes place in the dark; other nature docs would be better to experience the full force of on-screen color on acid.
One of the greatest phenomena in Bollywood history, Disco Dancer is a classic rags-to-riches tale with a twist: while many Bollywood films of this time were known for violent revenge plots, this 1982 movie shows the hero, Jimmy, defeating his enemies through disco dancing. The original soundtrack blends Bollywood sounds into synthesized disco music, and its dance scenes keep the energy high from start to finish. A cult classic throughout Asia (from the former Soviet Union to Japan, where there is a statue of Jimmy in the city of Osaka), its appearance on Netflix is sure to generate many new fans in the US.
Bo Burnham: Inside
Here’s another one for those who want to keep their minds moving—and their stomachs bursting with laughter. Made almost single-handedly by comedian Bo Burnham in the early days of Covid, this 2021 special uses meta-perspective to document his strained efforts to write and film humorous material as his mental health deteriorates while in lockdown, stuck inside. The themes are serious, for sure, but as always, Burnham has an ingenious way of alchemizing them into comedic gold, with songs about sexting, FaceTiming your mom, and the wonderful world of a “White Woman’s Instagram.” Watch the mind of a genius at work.
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